Philippians 3 (New International Version)
No Confidence in the Flesh
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, REJOICE in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Paul first lists four things that were his possessions by birth.
- Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with Leviticus 12:3.
- Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and an heir to God’s covenant with them.
- Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a distinguished tribe. Benjamin was distinguished by the fact that it gave Israel her first king, Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2). It was the tribe that aligned itself with faithful Judah when Israel divided into two nations at the time of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:21). It was also the tribe that had Jerusalem in its boundaries (Judges 1:21).
- Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This contrasts him with the Jews who embraced Greek culture as it spread through the Mediterranean. In that time, many Jews became ashamed of their Jewishness and tried to live and act as much like Greeks as they could, sometimes even to the point of having their circumcision cosmetically restored or hidden so they could enjoy the Roman public baths without being noticed as Jews.
- Concerning the law, a Pharisee: This tells us that among an elite people (the Jews), he was of an elite sect (the Pharisees), who were noted for their scrupulous devotion to the law of God. “There were not very many Pharisees, never more than six thousand, but they were the spiritual athletes of Judaism. Their very name means The Separated Ones. They had separated themselves off from all common life and from all common tasks in order to make it the one aim of their lives to keep every smallest detail of the Law” (Barclay). The concern that Pharisees had for keeping the law is reflected in passages like Matthew 23:23.
- Concerning zeal, persecuting the church: Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent of perceived heresies, he was an active fighter against them – even in his blindness to God. Paul’s observation that the Jews of his day have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2) was of course true of his own life before God confronted him on the road to Damascus.
- Concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless: This shows that Paul achieved the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day – though this standard fell short of God’s holy standard. By man’s interpretation of the law, there were those who were deceived into thinking that they really were blameless, like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23).
In summary, if anyone could lay claim to pleasing God by law-keeping and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was far more qualified than his legalizing opponents were to make such a claim.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael
. . . but I press on . . .
We live too hurried lives, sometimes; talk too much; think too little. With the goal in view am I racing on is one version of verse 14.
I am pressing on — that was Paul’s word. Is it ours? For what has our Lord laid hold of us? Are we laying hold of that? Or are we content to live the ordinary life?
Let us press on through all hindering things, distracting thoughts, unworthy feeling. Let us press on through all feelings of sloth or discouragement or fear, to the place where our God can speak to us in the stillness, and hold us close to His heart.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Following Paul’s Example
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven.
Cartoonist Arthur Brisbane once pictured a crowd of grieving caterpillars carrying the corpse of a cocoon to its final resting place. The poor, distressed caterpillars, clad in black raiment, were weeping, and all the while the beautiful butterfly fluttered happily above the muck and the mire of Earth, forever freed from its earthly shell. Needless to say, Brisbane had the average funeral in mind and sought to convey the idea that when our loved ones pass, it is foolish to remember only the cocoon and concentrate our attention on the remains, while forgetting the bright butterfly.
Dr. Werner von Braun, well-known for his part in pioneering the U.S. space program, said that he had “essentially scientific” reasons for believing in life after death. He explained: “Science has found that nothing can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation. If God applies the fundamental principle to the most minute and insignificant parts of the universe, doesn’t it make sense to assume that He applies it to the masterpiece of His creation — the human soul? I think it does.”
The English scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) is considered to have been one of the greatest experimental physicists. When Faraday was questioned on his speculations of a life after death, he replied: “Speculations? I know nothing about speculations. I’m resting on certainties. I know that my Redeemer lives, and because He lives, I shall live also.”
And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Verse 10: I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings . . .
“I Want to Know You” by Sonic Flood. Bet it will make you tap your foot!